11 important people from Guatemala

11 famous Guatemalans | GuatexplorerFor some of the people on this list, you didn’t know that they are from Guatemala, for some of them maybe you haven’t heard. This is my list of distinguished Guatemalans that made a worldwide impact in their respected professions. Just, no politicians, please. Okay, maybe one.





Miguel Angel Asturias | GuatexplorerMiguel Angel Asturias

Who was he?

Miguel Ángel Asturias Rosales was a Nobel Prize-winning Guatemalan poet-diplomat, novelist, playwright and journalist.

Why is he important?

Asturias helped establish Latin American literature's contribution to mainstream Western culture. A significant part of his adult life he lived abroad, most of the time in Paris, France. His two novels made a great impact: El Señor Presidente (Mr. President) and Hombres de maíz (Men of Maize). Both of those novels show historical dilemmas of Guatemalans: one is about the life under a dictatorship, while the other is a defense of Guatemalan Mayan culture and customs. To achieve world recognition Asturias had to wait a very long time.

Carlos Merida | Guatexplorer

Carlos Mérida

Who was he?

He was a Guatemalan artist who was one of the first to fuse European modern painting to Latin American themes. He was a part of the Mexican muralism movement

Why is he important?

His works are often huge, monumental murals and similar pieces of art, like mosaics and set design. Mérida felt it important to emphasize his American (New World) identity and culture. He fused European Modernism with forms and subjects specific to the Americas. Most of his life he lived in Mexico.

Myrna Mack | Guatexplorer

Myrna Mack

Who was she?

Myrna Mack Chang was a Guatemalan anthropologist. In 1990 she was murdered by a military death squad because of her criticism of the Guatemala government's treatment of the indigenous Maya, and its human rights abuses against the people.

Why is she important?

As an UK educated anthropologist she discovered many human rights violations and helped that the truth about war crimes emerges in public. In 1993 her sister Helen Mack Chang established the Fundación Myrna Mack to honor her memory, pursue justice through the courts for Mack's death, and continue work in defending human rights.

Rigoberta Menchu | Guatexplorer

Rigoberta Menchú

Who is she?

Rigoberta Menchú Tum is a K'iche' political activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Why is she important?

Menchú has dedicated her life to publicizing the rights of Guatemala's indigenous feminists during and after the Guatemalan Civil War (1960–1996), and to promoting indigenous rights in the country.


Ricardo Arjona | Guatexplorer

Ricardo Arjona

Who is he?

Ricardo Arjona is a Guatemalan singer-songwriter and former basketball player and school teacher.

Why is he important?

Arjona is one of the most successful Latin American artists of all time, with more than 40 million albums sold. His music ranges from ballads to Latin pop, rock, pop rock, Cuban music, and more recently a cappella performances and a mixture of Tejano music and Norteño music, and other Afro-American and Latin sound. Arjona is noted for his lyrical style and often addresses topics such as love, sexuality, violence, racism, and immigration.

Luis Von Ahn | Guatexplorer

Luis von Ahn

Who is he?

Luis von Ahn is a Guatemalan entrepreneur and a Consulting Professor in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University.

Why is he important?

He is known as one of the pioneers of crowdsourcing. He is the founder of the company reCAPTCHA, which was sold to Google in 2009, and the co-founder and CEO of Duolingo, a popular language-learning platform. Von Ahn has used a number of unusual techniques in his teaching, which have won him multiple teaching awards at Carnegie Mellon University.

Carlos Ruiz | Guatexplorer

Carlos “Pescado” Ruiz

Who is he?

Known as just Pescado or "Fish", Carlos Ruiz is a retired Guatemalan footballer (player of soccer) who last played as a striker for FC Dallas in Major League Soccer (MLS).

Why is he important?

He is regarded to be the greatest Guatemalan player of all time. He served as the national team captain, is the player with most caps, and is the all-time top scorer. He played in five World Cup qualification competitions, and in September 2016 he became the all-time top scorer in World Cup qualifiers, with 39 goals.

Eric Barrondo | Guatexplorer

Eric Barrondo

Who is he?

Guatemalan racewalker who competes in the 20 km walk and 50 km walk events.

Why is he important?

He won the silver medal at the Men's 20km Racewalk in the 2012 Summer Olympics, the first Olympic medal in Guatemala's history. It is still the only medal by Guatemala. That way he continues the tradition of Guatemalan athletes like Doroteo Guamuch (known as Mateo Flores) who won the Boston Marathon.

 Oscar Isaac | Guatexplorer

Oscar Isaac

Who is he?

Oscar Isaac is a Guatemalan-American actor and musician.

Why is he important?

He played lead film roles in the comedy-drama Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), when his career took off and for which he received a Golden Globe Award nomination. Since then he plays in prestigious film projects as Ex Machina, Star Wars, and X-Men. In 2016, Time named Isaac one of the 100 most influential people in the world on the annual Time 100 list. In 2017 Issac was described as the "best dang actor of his generation" by Vanity Fair.

 Gaby Moreno | Guatexplorer

Gaby Moreno

Who is she?

Gaby Moreno is a Guatemalan singer-songwriter and guitarist. Her music ranges from blues, jazz, soul, to R&B. Moreno sings both in English and Spanish.

Why is she important?

She became known to broader audiences in Latin America after recording a song with Ricardo Arjona in 2011, called "Fuiste Tú". In 2013, she recorded covers of the popular songs "Kiss of Fire" and "The Weed Smoker's Dream" with Hugh Laurie for his album, Didn't It Rain. She tours in Europe and USA.

Norma Torres | Guatexplorer

Norma Torres

Who is she?

She is a Guatemalan-American politician. She is a member of the United States House of Representatives for California's 35th congressional district (D). Previously, she was a member of the California State Senate representing the 32nd district.

Why is she important?

Torres was born in Guatemala and moved to the USA at the age of five. She worked as a 9-1-1 dispatcher and has been elected the Pomona city's mayor in 2006. Torres is an example of the social integration of Latin immigrants, their personal success.

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